Book Reviews

The Outside by Ada Hoffmann


Released: June 2019
Publisher: Angry Robot (one of my favourite publishing houses right now)
Pages: 406
Rating: 4/5

A high-concept debut novel about the uneven balance between humanity and technology in the 28th century.


In the 28th century, humans have spread across the galaxy but are subjugated to the highly evolved AI it once helped create. Gone are the religions of Old Earth, replaced by the worship of the AI “Gods” who control almost all aspects of technology. Computers, tablets, and cell phones are all a thing of the ancient past. Unless given explicit permission, the use of these or similar items is considered heresy. As a result, humans are utterly dependent on the God machines that are provided to them.

Dr. Yasira Shien is a highly renowned scientist and mathematician who is trying to change that. Using groundbreaking research, she and her team have created their own energy drive abroad a spaceship that would ease their dependence on God given energy. At first everything launches without a hitch, but within days an intangible catastrophe befalls the generator, killing dozens on board. Trying to grasp what it was they all saw wrenches them from reality and instantly makes them all a heretical danger to the rest of humanity.

Before she can come to terms with what she witnessed, Yasira is kidnapped by the darkest God of them all and forced to uncover the mysteries behind the chaotic forces that destroyed her energy drive. Soon she begins to realise there is so much more at play; that the very fabric of the universe is not at all what she thought it to be.


First off, can I just say how impressed I was to receive a debut novel featuring an autistic central character written by an autistic writer? So often we get characters who aren’t neurotypical written by those who are and it’s hard to know how well it actually represents them.

That aside, this was an intense read. The technology and world building were mind blowing. It was a little hard to wrap my head around at first (a glossary or index would have been great), but the more I read it the more I came to terms with this highly evolved 28th century setting. As someone who is terrified of the robot uprising, it was a little unnerving to read how well AI has wrested control of humans. By making themselves Gods, humans worship and fear them mostly without question, much like they did with previous Earth religions.

Reverence and fear are the keys to the Gods survival. So when the fabric of the universe is ripped open by the “Outside,” indicating that time and space as we know it is an illusion, the Gods are understandably worried. Most humans go insane after exposure to the hard to fathom Outside, but Yasira is one of the few humans where exposure seems to have negligible effects. Because of this, she becomes a valuable asset to the Gods.

“It is not in time as we know it, not in space as we know it. It is not good…it is not evil; any harm it does to us is merely a byproduct… It is the most beautiful thing in the universe, and the most terrible, and the ugliest – and, of course, it is not ‘in the universe’ at all.”

It’s a pretty fascinating plot but it often got bogged down in the details, especially at the end. I think this book would have been stronger if it were trimmed down because it’s got the bones of a unique and fantastic story. In areas it could get repetitive and ambiguous, and despite what the premise suggests, not a lot actually happens. It’s a shame because the action it did have was absolutely stellar.

Not that I mind slow or ambiguous books. I think that certain elements were meant to go over our heads because the point in those cases was for it to be as overwhelming and unknowing for the reader as it was for the characters. That I’m fine with because it gives the book a unique mythology. It’s the missed opportunities to explain further areas that were just hinted at I’m more disappointed about, especially with the angels.

Either way, this was a really compelling novel and I have no regrets about reading it. I definitely recommend it for other fantasy and hard science-fiction lovers.


For those of you who have read Ninefox Gambit, you’ll probably get mild panic attacks whenever you read the words “heresy” or “heretical.” At least, I know I did whilst I was reading this. However in The Outside, the Gods, religion, and heresies were far more organic and logical. You could honestly imagine how the world came to be this way and that’s what made it all the more frightening. Well, as much as you can imagine the 28th century- that was a concept that boggled my mind more than the Outside did.

So many fantasy and science fiction novels these days lack a truly original plot. The Outside by Ada Hoffmann is NOT one of those novels. It is a remarkable and genuinely unique tale. I highly recommend it and am really looking forward to what else comes next from the mind of this talented writer.

Buy a copy of this awesome book over on Amazon


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